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Spring sonata

art haat Craft and commerce make a sweet blend at Dilli Haat's Basant Saras expo, says ANJANA RAJAN

You will not find a repeat design Manipuri artisan


SPRING TIME: Basant Saras craft fair at Dilli Haat in New Delhi

NO SOONER does winter start to abate and the Capital's denizens heave a sigh of relief, than a lurking heat can be felt in the breeze, and we sigh in anticipation of a torrid summer we know is gaining steadily on spring. This year, the cool winds keep returning, though Holi, the traditional gateway to the hot months, is long past. All the better for the craftsmen and women who have set up stalls at Basant Saras, Dilli Haat's spring festival. Points out a cheerful craftsman, visitors are always more numerous when the weather is pleasant.

Under the aegis of the Government of India's Ministry of Rural Development, Basant Saras is set to continue till April 15. A trip to the expo is a delight not only for the avid shopper, the bargain hunter and the finicky buyer, but also for the art lover who takes pleasure in the myriad arts and crafts of India.

From food items to footwear, furniture to wall decorations, you can find a bit of everything, in traditional designs and colours that never fail to impress, despite their having been seen before at this and other venues.

Sandals and chappals from Kohlapur in Maharashtra priced between Rs.150 and 250, Pashmina shawls and stoles from Kashmir at half the rates of the winter months, Basmati rice from Uttaranchal, cane stools and modas from Haryana, cotton suit pieces in traditional weaves of various States, besides readymade clothes and saris in every shade, fabric and weave - if the aesthetic appeal is not enough to loosen your purse strings, the bargain prices should do the trick.

Cosmopolitan craft

Chanderi saris from Madhya Pradesh, charmingly transparent, so suitable for formal wear in the heat, flutter from the booth in attractive pastel shades with gold borders and booti. If the silks start at a surprising Rs.600, the cottons are on offer for 300. The art of Chanderi, says a weaver, is only 50 years old. It reflects a cosmopolitan worldview too. The thread is Chinese silk, acquired from Bangalore, he explains. Though the work is meticulous, the thread the weavers mount in the warp (lengthwise thread) of the loom is enough to create 12 saris at a time.

The weavers of Manipur on the contrary, create only one piece at a time. Says the girl at the stall, "You will not find a repeat design, and each takes three or four weeks to create."At the Tamil Nadu stall, where weavers from Erode are represented, rates for fine cotton saris begin at Rs.150, simply because the border is not more than an inch thick - rather trendy in urban terms - whereas those with double the size of border are priced at Rs.250.With plastic ruling the shelves in Delhi, woven stools using colourful cotton fibre are a welcome sight. How can they be repaired though? "Don't worry. If a normal folding cot repairer can't do it, we'll be back next year. We have been coming to this expo for years," says a Haryana craftsman.

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